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A Napoleon III Gilt-Bronze and Hardstone Inset Ebonised Pier Cabinet

French, Circa 1860

REF No. B74810

The bronze mounts stamped to the reverse 'PA'

dimensions

Height :108 cm | 42¹/₂ in
Width :126 cm | 49⁵/₈ in
Depth :42 cm | 16¹/₂ in

description

A Napoleon III Gilt-Bronze and Hardstone Inset Ebonised Pier Cabinet.

The bronze mounts stamped to the reverse 'PA'.

This impressive side cabinet has fine gilt-bronze mounts set against an ebonised case,  further enriched with hardstone panels of floral reliefs in rare agates and marbles.

The cabinet has a rectangular Belgian black marble top above a frieze drawer and two cupboard doors richly mounted with fine pietre dure panels inlaid in high relief with shaded agates and marbles of perching exotic birds in fruited trees. The cupboard doors open to an interior fitted with two ebonised shelves. The doors are framed by gilt-bronze uprights  headed by finely cast figural espagnolettes.  The cabinet is raised on a shaped plinth base, the apron centred by a fine foliate and acanthus mount.

Of fine quality this cabinet was almost certainly made by one of the leading Parisian ébénistes of the period.

French, Circa 1860.

Provenance

Pietre dure or hard stone mosaic was a costly and time-intensive art form perfected during the Renaissance in Florence, under the patronage of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Medici.

Rome in the early Sixteenth Century was the catalysing centre of High Renaissance culture.  It was here that the cult of the Antique, and the excitement of archaeological discovery was fostering a lasting passion for the marbles and rare stones that had adorned Imperial Rome in the days of her splendour.  In Rome there was also a tradition of skilled marble working that had survived throughout the Middle Ages and made possible the revival of ingenious techniques such as 'opus sectile'.  This was a composition of irregular sections of coloured stone, used since the days of the Roman Empire, mainly for the covering of pavements and walls.  The Renaissance brought about a revival and refining of this technique and saw its adoption for display furniture for the homes of rich and cultivated patrons, in a form know as 'intarsia'.

The Medici family were amongst the keenest admirers of Roman 'intarsia' work, and it is clear that it played an important part in the birth of 'Florentine mosaic', later to be known as 'Pietre Dure', which was far more complex, and involved the creation of motifs and pictures, not just the geometrical shapes of the earlier 'intarsias'.   

In 1588 Grand Duke Ferdinando I founded in Florence the 'Galleria de' Lavori in Pietre Dure', a hardstone workshop combining all the Grand Ducal workshops.  He hired local craftsmen and trained them to restore ancient carved-stone objects as well as create original works in 'pietre dure'. These artists soon perfected the art of making pictures with thin pieces of brightly coloured semi-precious stones.  By the end of the century, Florence was to hold an international supremacy in the highly specialised field of 'pietre dure' that was to last for nearly three Centuries.

During the 1600's the Galleria's work was mainly restricted to Florence, concentrating on the decorations of the Medici family's chapel in the church of San Lorenzo, begun in 1605, and the Tribune in the Uffizi, intended to be a showcase for the finest pieces in the Medici collections.  But by the 1700's, when 'pietre dure' became increasingly fashionable, artists trained in the workshop travelled all over Europe to work for other noble or royal households.

Brilliantly coloured flowers, fruits, and birds on a ground of black paragone were consistently the favourite compositions for 'pietre dure' works. In these designs the memory of Ligozzi's (1547 - 1626) naturalism coexists with extreme stylisation.  The plant theme was also to be continued in the festoons of bronze foliage and 'pietre dure' fruits, for which the Galleria even created a new job of 'fruttista'.

The end of the Tuscan Grand Duchy in 1859 was to see the end of the Gallerias dominance, since it had always been so closely linked to the Court.  The House of Savoy almost completely ignored the manufactory, preferring to obtain their furnishings and gifts from private Florentine workshops, most notably that of Enrico Bosi. The 1870's did see commissions to the Galleria from other monarchs such as Ludwig II of Bavaria and Alexander II of Russia, for pieces in the grand tradition of the past, and such productions maintained earlier levels of quality and taste.

A Napoleon III Gilt-Bronze and Hardstone Inset Ebonised Pier Cabinet







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